Saturday, June 25, 2005

Song Meanings - Rufus Wainwright

Foolish Love
"It's about the type of person you fall in love with who, when you take one look at him, you know it will end tragically. You know you can never really have him, but it's what you've always wanted-impossible love. It's rather up-tempo and happy-sounding but still sad. I remember writing it almost like a mantra, saying to myself, "Lighten up and trudge on." That's all you can do. Get out with class, the way Cole Porter would."

Danny Boy
"This one is based a little bit on Wagnerian opera. The guy from "Foolish Love," Danny, is like the warrior-hero-babe Siegfried. When I met him it was like meeting a god, the light from him almost burning me. I never thought of the standard "Danny Boy" when I was writing it, and I think I lost a lot of gigs at places like [New York's hip Irish venue] Sin-ƒ, because they thought I was gonna put on an Irish-American jamboree!"

April Fools
"I wrote that at a Valentine's Day party. I was so lovesick. They had these kissing booths, and there was this cute guy in the booth everyone was kissing, but I was too shy to do it. Then I went up to relieve him of his kissing-booth duty, and nobody came to kiss me. It was terrible. You think everything's great, and it just comes crashing down. I'd come up with the line "You will believe in love" earlier that evening in the bathtub. I stood up and sang it. It just sort of hit me as the perfect pop ball-grabber of a line. Then I went to that party."

In My Arms
"A story about a junkie I met. We had a one-night affair-it was truly romantic. He was very young, like 17 or 18, and very beautiful and wanted to quit drugs. He'd been clean for a week, but after meeting me, he said, "I wanna do drugs and come over to your house." I said no, but he showed up anyway, totally high. And then we had this incredible night. The next day he tried to commit suicide. It didn't work. But two years later he hanged himself with a belt."

"That's a little ditty about boarding school, just me on piano, with orchestration by Van Dyke Parks. I was looking back at the pageantry of it all-the Sunday morning parade to services, the endless lacrosse matches, the little rich kids hanging out on the green listening to Bob Marley. The whole city-on-a-hill thing."

"Once again, orchestration by Van Dyke and me on piano. It's about the guy in "In My Arms." When you have feelings for someone who's a drug addict, it's like they're a baby. A part of you wants to take care of it, like a mother would. The song has an odd structure. There's a long piano break in the middle, for which Van Dyke wrote an incredible string part. He transformed it from this sad little song into a gorgeous, sweeping Tennessee Williams screenplay."

Beauty Mark
"That's about my mother. We spar a lot. She'll write a song, I'll write a song; she'll put me down, I'll put her down. I'd written a bunch of stuff she thought was terrible (and she was right). But "Beauty Mark" won her over-it was my comeback. I had to rise to her challenge. I said to myself, "Okay, I'm gonna write a perfect little classy thing. I'll show mama!" It's the happiest song on the album."

"This song is loosely about AIDS. It's about feeling like you just wanna go someplace and dance in the street and forget your troubles. I went to Barcelona to do just that-and had a horrible time. My friend got strep throat, the hotel was a rip-off, our car was towed and we were robbed by gypsies. The line "Fuggi, regal fantasima" is Italian. It's from Verdi's "Macbetto." It means "Flee, regal phantasm." It's when Macbeth is going mad and sees the ghost. In my mind, the ghost was AIDS."

Matinée Idol
"I wrote this right after River Phoenix died. It sensationalizes the death of a star. It's very up-tempo and has a lot of vibraphones and clanging and clamor-the score swells as the matinee idol lies dying on Sunset Blvd. "And the angels came down from on high." The angels of Los Angeles."

Damned Ladies
"A song about my obsessive relationship with opera heroines-Madame Butterfly, Tosca, Mimi. It has a Viennese-type arrangement, sort of like something you'd hear in "The Third Man." In the song, I lament how these women are constantly dying brutal deaths, which I can see coming but cannot stop. It gets me every time."

Sally Ann
"That's the Canadian nickname for the Salvation Army. It's another Danny song. He used to live near the Salvation Army in this very depressed area of Montreal called St. Henry. One day, I was walking around down there and imagined living on love in the bad, beautiful part of town, drinking in the bar, having to shop the Sally Ann to decorate our disgusting tenement flat. Ah! the romance of poverty. There's even a Salvation Army-esque horn part."

Imaginary Love
"It's about how whenever I fall in love, I have these expectations of the experience being a perfect dream, which, of course, ruins it. I imagine cradling my lover's head in my lap in a cab in the middle of the night, and drinking champagne in an elegant hotel suite. But life's rarely like that, and I usually end up walking home by myself in the rain."

Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk
"It's about addiction in general, and how essentially, whether it's cigarettes or chocolate milk or heroin or sex, it really all relates to deeper issues in people's lives. It's a deeper sense of longing and loss. You can't really blame someone for being an addict or for eating too many jellybeans. That's at the end of the song: Please be kind. We're all going through a lot. "

Greek Song
"This song is about an affair I never had." It's a love duet between a white guy and a Greek guy. According to various introductions Rufus has given this song live, it was inspired by a trip he took with Cherry Vanilla (an Andy Warhol cohort, who is significantly older than him) to Greece. They sat on the beach and oggled the beautiful boys. She had quite a bit of luck with the boys; however, Rufus only got one kiss.

"I was living in the Chelsea Hotel, and going out a lot, and sort of taking advantage of the modicum of fame that I'd gotten from my first record, and really trying to gather up experiences for the second. And this song sort of arrived at one point. It was about a combination--it was about certain people and certain--and about myself. It sort of became this character of a young guy who comes to the city, bright and fresh and young and smelling like roses, and leaves completely destroyed. I don't think that happened to me, but I saw it happen to a lot of people. "

"I was at Marylin Manson's house--or, no, his lawyer's house, sorry--but he was there and they were throwing this big party. I was kinda hungry and I said "oooh, it's a mansion," there were a lot of lawyers and rock stars and stuff, and I went up to the food area--the dining room, I guess that would be--and they had peanut butter sandwiches and chips and sparkling wine. It was a real eye-opener. Anyway, the 'streaker' line--at the party, some guy took off all his clothes just to make it a little more interesting, because, needless to say, it was Marylin Manson's party and everyone was a little overdressed. So he took off all his clothes and I fell for him and went after him immediately. Whatever, I'm the one who fell for the naked guy."

Tower Of Learning
"It actually has a bit to do with Baz Luhrman, who asked me to write some songs for the movie Moulin Rouge. I began the song and then put it on the shelf, and then I just saw this guy whose eyes were very beautiful, and all of a sudden the whole subject of falling into someone’s eyes and how electrifying that can be kind of resurrected the song. It was gonna be used right at the end of Moulin Rouge, so I sort of wrote it like that, and then I never heard back from him. But Lenny just creamed over it."

Evil Angel
"Evil Angel is an interesting song. It’s actually to do with a journalist who, I was in France at the time and quite delicatem, and this guy basically seduced me in Strasbourg. He gave me a tour of the town and it was very romantic, and we did actually make out in the middle of this town square, and then I went and did the show and I never heard from him again. And I just felt incredibly used.